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Hanni El Khatib At The Teragram Ballroom, Thursday February 9th 2017


Hanni El Khatib


Red Bull Sound Select is always a great way to discover up-and-coming bands and more famous ones for $3, yes, only 3 bucks with a reservation, and if the previous shows have been happening everywhere in town (Echoplex, Club Sayers, Los Globos), one of my favorite new club, the Teragram ballroom, was hosting this new Sound Select, featuring Pinky Pinky, Dude York and Hanni El Khatib, who was throwing a party for the release of his new album, ‘Savage Times’.

I went there for Hanni of course, but the other bands revealed themselves to be really good surprises.

Pinky Pinky was a trio of young girls playing a bluesy guitar with a sort of retro vibe, which was evolving in many psychedelic directions, and if they were equally charming and excellent at what they were doing, the main attraction was Anastasia the drummer, who was singing with a loud and clear voice… unfortunately her face was hiding by a part of her drum kit from where I was standing and I couldn’t move much as the crowd was already very dense very early on. Her dark soulful and surprisingly strong voice was resonating deeply, even trembling (she made me think about Corin Tucker) between Isabelle’s inventive bluesy guitar, and Eva’s bass, and I remember them to go all doo-woppy on a song. I wasn’t only able to find anything about this feminist duo beside their first names, but a Sleater Kinney reference is always a very good sign. They left me in a sort of 60’s the Doors-psychedelia vibe, while their punchy songs were as imaginative as they sounded familiar.

Dude York started with a quite dramatic song, and they never stop being very entertaining with their powerchord pop songs and an over-the-top enthusiasm for epic guitar duels and crashing drums. The trio from Seattle was mixing drama and comedy, while Peter Richards on guitar and Claire England on bass were alternating on vocals, and curiously when she was singing, I almost got a Sonic Youth vibe although they were way too bright and poppy for this and may be just a jocky ‘rock band featuring guitar, bass and drums’ as Richards said. They were loud and grungy at times (difficult to escape this when you are from Seattle – and there was something very sincere and direct in their heavy-riff songs with poppy melodies delivered as if they were playing for a stadium crowd… their sophomore album is called ‘Sincerely’ by the way. They put everyone in a very good mood, as their set was very enjoyable, all screaming harmonies and jumping sonic battles, especially their crazy pit-jumping ending, the type of exuberant garage pop that can make you bounce of joy even after a very long day at work.

Then came Hanni El Khatib, who rushed on stage under the crowd’s acclamation with scorpions on red print in the background — this is the cover of his new album ‘Savage Times’. I have more or less followed him since his beginning, and I remember seeing him alone with his guitar at the Echo in 2010, during his ‘Build. Destroy. Rebuild.’ period. He still plays this raw, bluesy punk rock, although these new songs are something else, a bunch of beasts which have their own lives, often furious and distorted but which can also morph into some surprising disco funk dance floors. His set was as diverse and as messy as a punk rock show should be, constantly animated by a threat of violence, looking at the way Hanni was moving on stage, but also bringing a lot of pleasure. He has definitively freed himself from his blues-rock beginning, and he has a lot of fun at experimenting way beyond the Auerbach school, which produced his ‘Head In The Dirt’.

The songs of ‘Savage Times’ were not originally recorded as an album, they were recorded over an entire year and released instantly to the public, as El Kahtib had no intention to assemble an album. At the end of 2015, he was supposed to play at the Bataclan in Paris when the terrorist attack during the Eagles of Death Metal’s gig forced him to cancel his planned Paris performance and gave him the opportunity to put together ‘Savage Times’, a title truly reflecting these crazy times.

He gave us big chunks of garage rock although his vocals were surprising always dominant, never buried into the distortion and the fuzz of the guitars, and the show started with plenty of new songs, ‘Baby’s OK’, ‘Gonna Die Alone’, and especially ‘Mangos and Rice’ completely satisfying any need of high-energy song with a sort of menacing vibe. There was a palpable tension, a danger keeping us on the edge for the fun of it, as El Khatib has a way to look at us as if he was caught in the headlight of some enemy tracking him, he constantly runs away from some mysterious danger, and as the son of a Fillipino mother and Palestinian father, this metaphor for fear and menace has to become even more real in Trump’s America.

But it was quite amazing to see him embarking into a straightforward sexy disco song such as ‘Paralyzed’ with the exact same swagger than during the other songs, Hanni goes disco? Totally and this should not be a surprise, after all The Stones did it with ‘Miss You’ in 1978.

With the same stage drama, he played a few older songs (‘Loved One’, ‘Pay no Mind’, and the revamped old classic ‘You Rascal You’) with a maddening fury and the smell of gasoline coming from his super-charged guitar, as these oldies were received by the crowd with joyful screams and sing-alongs. The stop-and-start he often put in his songs seem to mimic a reticent engine with a capricious mind of his own. A new song like ‘Come Down’ contrasted with the rest of the evening’s rage-powered songs, because of its slow, and lazy vague modern post hip hop vibe, while the title song ‘Savage Times’ was in full ravaging punk raucous aggression.

And just before playing his ‘Head in the Dirt’ anthem, ‘Family’, he pulled an Iggy Pop (I have seen Iggy doing the same thing at the Palladium) and asked people to get on stage,… which they immediately did, tuning the place into chaos as a tsunami of girls rushed on stage, and after the soulful ‘Miracle’, the room transformed into a giant dance floor during the very funky disco of ‘Two Brothers’,

All night long, Hanni El Khatib transcended genres with the same mighty attitude, it was musical diversity played with a rare unity, as he was expanding his raucous palette with great talent, even sprinkling his inventive range with a few Michael Jackson ooo-oo-ooo. It’s great to see an artist’s evolution, and even though I was expecting to see a disco ball drop in the middle of the stage during a few songs, El Khatib was still showing this same skateboard-urban-culture attitude, still playing this knife-fight-music, whatever he was doing.

Baby’s OK
Gonna Die Alone
Mangos and Rice
Melt Me
Till Your Rose Comes Home
Save Me
This is Know
So Dusty
Loved One
Pay No Mind
Come Down
You Rascal You
Savage Times
Mondo and His Makeup
Two Brothers


More pictures here


Pinky Pinky


Dude York


Hanni El Khatib

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